Issues in Practical Halacha

Issue Number 14 --- 19 Shevat, 5755

Compiled and Published by Kollel Menachem - Lubavitch (Melbourne, Australia)

in the zechus of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, o.b.m.

Women's Obligations in Tefillah and Blessings

This issue discusses only some of the obligations of women with regard to tefillah and blessings. Others, including Yom Tov and the Yomim Noraim, will be discussed in some future issue, G-d willing.


The Gemora [1] states that women are exempt from positive mitzvos linked to specific times. An explanation for this is found in the Rishonim [2]. Women are occupied with the needs of the house and family and with raising and educating children and so are freed from any mitzva required at a particular time.

Another reason given is that the spiritual quality of women is such that they can merit the world to come without the performance of positive time- bound mitzvos. [3]

Morning Blessings

Women are obligated to say the morning blessings since they are for constant, daily benefits and so are applicable equally to men and women [4].

The Mishna Brura [5] argues that the halacha will also depend on whether the morning blessings are to be recited only in the morning in which case they have a time limitation. Others [6] write that even though the morning blessings are restricted to the morning, women are nevertheless particular to recite them.

The Yaivetz [7] writes that women should say the blessing for not making her a gentile or a slave in the feminine form - "shelo asani goya" (instead of "goy") and "shelo asani shifcha" (instead of "eved"). However, since these forms of the blessings are not mentioned in the Gemora, she should omit Hashem's Name and the attribute of His Kingship from the blessing (i.e. "Boruch shelo asani goya/shifcha").

The Chido [8] argues and writes that she should say these blessings in full.

The Eshel Avrohom [9] writes that she should leave these blessings in the masculine form as they include the feminine.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe [10] writes that in this she should follow the local custom.

The Tur [11] states that in place of the blessing recited by men "shelo asani isha" (Who has not made me a woman), women have the custom to say "she'asani kirtzono" (Who has made me in accordance with His will).

The Yaivetz writes that this should be said without Hashem's name. However the Likutei Maharich writes that the custom is to say it with Hashem's name. He adds that "Boruch shem..." should be said after this brocho.

The Alter Rebbe wrote in his Shulchan Aruch [12] that women do recite the blessing "she'asani kirztono". In his Siddur, however, he omitted this ruling. Hence R. Dvorkin [13] writes that in Chabad some women do recite it while noting that others do not. Perhaps here also the local custom should be followed (in accordance with the Rebbe's ruling mentioned above).

Blessings of the Torah

Women are obligated to say the blessings on the Torah [14] since they are obligated to learn those parts of Torah dealing with the mitzvos which they perform (eg. prayer, Shabbos, family purity). Moreover, women recite some sections from the Torah dealing with the sacrifices as part of daily tefillos and the blessings on the Torah is required for these sections (see below). [15]

The Sections Dealing with Korbanos (Sacrifices)

The Mogen Avrohom [16] and the Mishna Brura [17] write that women are obligated to recite Korbanos - that is the sections on the burnt, daily and incense offerings.

The Alter Rebbe [18] writes that they are obligated only to say the section on the daily offering (tamid). [19]

P'sukei D'zimra

The Alter Rebbe [20] writes that P'sukei d'zimra is optional for women.

The Mishna Brura [21] argues that since P'sukei d'zimra were instituted as a preface to Shmona Esrei, which women are required to say, they should also be obligated in P'sukei d'zimra.

Shma and Its Blessings

Women are exempt from the Shma and its blessings since it is time bound (morning and night) [22]. However it is appropriate that they accept upon themselves the yoke of heaven by reciting the first verse of Shma.

There are various opinions [22a] that women should also recite "Boruch shem etc.', or the first paragraph, or all three paragraphs (as many women do). The Alter Rebbe [23] and Mishna Brura [24] rule in accordance with the view of the Mogen Avrohom [25] that the obligation to recall the exodus from Egypt is a constant one, both at day and at night, and so is not time bound. Hence the brocho after Shma beginning "Emes v'yatziv', which was instituted to recall the exodus from Egypt, is also recited by women.

In addition, Shmona Esrei, in which women are obligated, must be preceded immediately by redemption - "g'ulo" - the conclusion of the brocho "Emes v'yatziv". [26] It appears from the Alter Rebbe that the same applies to "Emes v'emuna" at night.

Shmona Esrei (Amida)

Women's obligation in Shmona Esrei is dependant on the status of prayer in general. According to the Rambam [27] praying is a Torah obligation

One is obligated each day by the Torah to praise Hashem, ask for one's needs and give thanks to Hashem. Since this is not time bound women are also obligated. How often one is required to pray the text of the prayers and the times of prayer, however, are all rabbinic enactments.

According to the Ramban [28] and most Poskim [29] prayer itself is a rabbinic obligation. The men of the Great Assembly instituted 18 blessings (the Shmona Esrei) to be prayed morning, afternoon and optionally at night. While it is time bound it was nevertheless instituted for women because Shmona Esrei is a request for one's needs and is therefore applicable also to women.

The Mogen Avrohom writes that most women do not pray the Shmona Esrei regularly on the basis of the view of the Rambam [27]. The Rambam states that with a short request to Hashem upon rising a woman has fulfilled her Torah obligation of prayer. The Mogen Avrohom therfore concludes that there is perhaps no additional rabbinic obligation upon her. However he rules, as do the Alter Rebbe [30] and the Mishna Brura [31], in accordance with the view of the Ramban, that women are obligated in Shmona Esrei.

Women, therefore, need to pray Shacharis and Mincha Shmona Esrei. Ma'ariv, however, was originally optional also for men; and women did not accept it upon themselves as an obligation (unlike men).

There are rabbis who are lenient in this regard with women who are greatly occupied with raising children. The son of the Chofetz Chaim relates [32] that his mother rarely prayed while they were young - the Chofetz Chaim had exempted her since she was occupied in raising children.

Similarly there are accounts that R. Kaminetzky exempted women raising children from prayer, comparing them to one occupied with caring for the sick, who is exempt. It is understood that one may not be lenient with oneself without obtaining a ruling from one's Rabbi.

Moreover, a woman who has been praying Shmona Esrei regularly and then due to difficulties obtains a ruling from a rabbi to exempt her needs to be released from a vow since her regular practice to pray has the force of a vow in this instance. [33]

A woman who prays the Shmona Esrei must observe laws pertaining to it: fixing a regular place to pray [34], washing her hands before prayer [35] and not doing housework before praying [36].

According to the Sha'arei Tshuva [37] if a child is distracting her while praying the Shmona Esrei she may signal to the child to stop. If this doesn't help she may distance herself from the child; she may not, however, speak.


The Machaze Eliyahu [38] writes that women are exempt from Tachanun on two accounts: (i) According to the Tur [39] a reason for saying Tachanun is in order to pray in the three different positions which Moshe Rabeinu prayed: Shma is recited seated, Shmona Esrei standing and Tachanun with one's head down. Since women are exempt from Shma, this reason doesn't apply to them. (ii) Tachanun is essentially optional in status [40] and it was not accepted as an obligation by women.

Ashrei and Uva L'tzion

The Machaze Eliyahu [38] writes that women are exempt from Uva L'tzion. One reason why Uva L'tzion is recited is that it contains verses from the Torah with their translation so that one should at least learn some Torah during the day [42]. Since women are essentially exempt from learning Torah this reason does not apply to them.

Uva L'tzion was moreover instituted during the time of a Roman decree against saying K'dusha which was omitted from earlier parts of the prayers because of spies in the synagogue. When the spies left they recited Uva L'tzion, which contains K'dusha, to compensate for the omission [43]. Since women are not obligated in K'dusha they are therefore exempt from reciting Uva L'tzion.

Ashrei is recited before Uva L'tzion in order to separate it from Shmona Esrei [44]. Since women don't recite Uva L'tzion they need not recite Ashrei.

Shir Shel Yom

Shir Shel Yom (the song of the day) is recited during the prayers just as it was recited during the time of offering the daily sacrifices [45]. Since women are obligated to recite the section of the daily sacrifice they are possibly obligated also to recite the Shir Shel Yom.


The L'vush [46] writes that Aleinu is praise to Hashem after Shmona Esrei just as P'sukei d'zimra is before. Since, according to the Alter Rebbe, women are exempt from P'sukei d'zimra they are perhaps likewise exempt from Aleinu.

Even according to the Mishna Brura who requires women to say P'sukei d'zimra perhaps Aleinu is not required since it was not instituted for the sake of the Shmona Esrei as were P'sukei d'zimra.


Some authorities exempt women from Musaf since it has a time limitation and is not a tefillah in the sense of a request for one's needs as are Shacharis and Mincha [47]. Another reason is that Musaf corresponds to the communal sacrifices which were offered in the Bais Hamikdosh. Since women did not contribute to the purchasing of these sacrifices - through giving a machatzis hashekel - they are exempt from Musaf. [48]

Others obligate women in Musaf. For though the sacrifices were not purchased by women they achieved atonement through them also [49]. Another reason is that Musaf is recited in order to sanctify the day (e.g. Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh) in which women are also obligated. [50]

R. Akiva Eiger [51] writes that women have accepted the practice of reciting Musaf and so have obligated themselves in it.

The Mishna Brura [52] appears to favour this view.


The Mogen Avrohom [53] exempts women from Hallel since it has a time limitation. However Hallel at the Pesach Seder is recited by women according to Tosefos [54] since they also were part of the miracle.

Kiddush Levono

The Mogen Avrohom [55] exempts women from Kiddush Levono since it has a fixed time.

Torah Reading

The Mogen Avrohom [56] obligates women to hear Krias HaTorah. Even though they are exempt from learning Torah they are obligated to hear its reading just as they are obligated in the mitzva of Hakhel (for which men, women and children gathered to hear the reading of portions of the Torah).

The Mishna Brura [57], however, writes that women are not particular to hear Krias HaTorah and in some communities there is even a practice for them to go out from the Shul when the Torah is read.

Prayers Before Retiring at Night

The Mogen Avrohom [58] explains that perhaps the women who do not recite Hamapil have this custom because it has a fixed time.

However the Eliya Rabba [59] obligates its recital since it affords protection at night which is needed equally by women.

The Pri Megodim [60] writes that women have a custom to recite it.

With regard to saying the Shma before the retiring the Mogen Avrohom [61] writes that there is a difference in opinion as to whether Shma is recited before retiring for protection or for other reasons.

According to the Shulchan Aruch [62] it is not for protection and so cannot be recited after Hamapil as it would be considered an interruption between Hamapil and sleep.

According to the Rambam [63] it is for protection and so is not considered an interruption and is recited after Hamapil.

According to the Eliya Rabba [64] a woman's obligation in saying Shma before retiring may depend on the order of Shma and Hamapil. If Shma is recited after Hamapil then it is for protection and so it is recited by women.

The Orchos Chaim [65] writes that women do recite Shma before retiring. The other parts of prayers before retiring (such as Yoshev b'seser) are for protection according to all opinions.

The Mogen Avrohom [57] writes that they are not obligatory (even for men). It is only customary to recite them.

Birkas Hamazon and Zimun

Women are obligated to say Birkas Hamazon after eating [66] as it is not bound to a fixed time [67]. There is a question about whether it is a Torah or a Rabbinic obligation. [68] A group of women who ate together may make a Zimun [69] although the custom is not do so [70]. If they ate together with three men then they are obligated to participate in the Zimun made by the men.

Birkas Hagomel

The Mishna Brura [71] writes that the custom is for women not to say the blessing Hagomel as it requires a minyan of ten men. Some authorities write that she should recite it in the presence of ten including at least one man [72].

The Ktzos Hashulchon [73] writes that women are obligated to bless Hagomel and that when a woman recovers from giving birth she should go to the women's section of a Bais Haknesses and bless Hagomel in the hearing of ten men. He adds [74] that the custom is to make a minyan for Ma'ariv at the house of the mother and that she should bless Hagomel then.

The Chabad custom is that women after giving birth do not bless Hagomel but rather to go to a Bais Haknesses and answer a Kaddish or a K'dusha. Women are required to recite T'filas Haderech (prayer for travelling) like men. [75]


Women are required to say Kiddush [76] even though it is has a fixed time. There is a special limud from the verse that just as she is obligated in observing the prohibitions of Shabbos she is obligated in the positive requirements of Shabbos.

The Mogen Avrohom [77] writes that even if a woman cannot understand the Kiddush she still fulfils her obligation by listening to her husband recite it. However it is preferable that she recites it with him since, in order to fulfil one's obligation by hearing from another, attention must be given to each word. If one does not understand what is being said it is difficult to give it attention and hence the suggestion to say Kiddush with her husband.

The Alter Rebbe [78] similarly rules that if she does not understand Hebrew she should recite it herself. At all events, even if this is not done, she should pay attention to each word.

The Mishna Brura [79] writes that if she is reciting Kiddush together with another she should have her own cup of wine in front of her. Women are also obligated in Kiddush during the day. If she fulfils her Torah obligation of tefillah by expressing some request in the manner of tefillah (see above) she subsequently becomes obliged to say Kiddush and so may not eat anything before doing so. [80]


There is a difference in opinion regarding a woman's obligation in Havdala [81]. The halacha is that she is obligated [82].


A woman's daily obligation in tefillah according to the Alter Rebbe consists of morning blessings, blessings on the Torah, the section relating to the daily sacrifice (tamid), the first verse of Shma, Emes V'yatziv followed immediately by the Shmona Esrei of Shacharis, and the Shmona Esrei of Mincha.

According to the Mishna Brura: morning blessings, blessings of the Torah, sections of the sacrifices (burnt (olah), daily (tamid), and incense (ketores)), P'sukei d'zimra, the first verse of Shma, Emes V'yatziv followed immediately by the Shmona Esrei of Shacharis, and the Shmona Esrei of Mincha.

[1] Kiddushin 34a
[2] Avudraham - Seder Tefilos Shel Chol
[3] Be'er Hagola (Maharal)
[4] Tur Orach Chayim 46
[5] 70:2
[6] see Sha'arei Halocha U'Minhag Vol.1 p.231
[7] in his Siddur
[8] Kesher Agudel 5:22
[9] Butchatch 46
[10] Likutei Sichos Vol.24 p.410
[11] Orach Chayim 46 [12] 46:4
[13] Kovetz Razash p.28
[14] Shulchan Oruch 47:14; Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch 47:10; Mishna Berurah 47 Noshim
[15] Beis Yosef end of Orach Chayim 47; see also Likutei Sichos Vol.14 p.149 Chasan Sofer, Sha'ar Birchos Hashachar Ch.9
[16] 47:14
[17] 47, "Noshim"
[18] 47:10
[19] see also Pri Megodim on above Mogen Avrohom; Tehilla L'Dovid 47; Responsa Machaze Eliyohu 14
[20] 70:1
[21] 70:2
[22] Shulchan Oruch 70:1
[22a] See L'vush 70; Mishna Berurah 70:5; Magen Giborim, Mogen Hotef 70:3
[23] 70:1
[24] 70:1
[25] 70:1
[26] see Pri Chodosh Orach Chayim 67; Sha'agas Arye Ch.12; Oruch Hashulchan 70:4
[27] Hilchos Tefillo 1:1,2
[28] Sefer HaMitzvos - Positive Mitzvah 5
[29] see Mogen Avrohom 106:2
[30] 106:2
[31] 106:4
[32] Sichos Chofetz Chaim Vol.1 Ch.27
[33] According to Pri Megodim end of "Preface to Laws of Prayer"
[34] see Shulchan Oruch Orach Chayim 90
[35] ibid 90
[36] ibid 89
[37] 104:1
[38] Ch.20
[39] Orach Chayim 131
[40] ibid, from Rav Neturoi Gaon
[41] Ch.20
[42] Rashi Sotah 49b "Akedusho"
[43] Shibolei Leket Ch.43
[44] Levush 132
[45] Masechas Sofrim 18:1
[46] 133:1
[47] Tzlach, Berochos 20b
[48] R. Akiva Eiger, Responsa Ch.9
[49] Responsa Be'er Yitzchok Orach Chayim Ch.17
[50] Responsa Shoel U'Meishiv II Vol.2 Ch.555
[51] on Shulchan Oruch Orach Chayim 106
[52] 106:4
[53] 422:5
[54] Succah 38a "Mi"
[55] 70:1; 296:11; 426:1 (see Chochmas Shlomo there)
[56] 282:6
[57] 282:12
[58] 239:2
[59] 239:4 [60] Aishel Avrohom 239:2
[61] ibid [62] 239:1 see Mogen Avrohom
[63] Hilchos Tefilla 7:1,2 [64] 239:4
[65] Kahana, 239:2 [66] Shulchan Oruch 186:1
[67] Taz 186:1
[68] see above Taz and Mogen Avrohom 186:1
[69] Shulchan Oruch Orach Chayim 199:7
[70] See Mishna Berurah 199 - Biyur Halocho "Noshim"
[71] 219:3
[72] ibid
[73] 65:2
[74] Balei Hashulchan 65:3
[75] see Shulchan Oruch Orach Chayim 110
[76] Shulchan Oruch 271:2
[77] 193:2
[78] 271:7
[79] Biyur Halocho 271 "D'iskish"
[80] see Igros Moshe Orach Chayim Vol.4 Ch.101
[81] Shulchan Oruch Orach Chayim 296:8
[82] Rema ibid; Alter Rebbe ibid 19

The above is not intended to decide halachic questions, but rather to clarify them in a clear and concise form. Please refer all your practical questions to your local Rabbi.

Index of Practical Halacha Pages

Please note: Many hours of research is put into compiling "Issues in Practical Halacha" and we request that you do not reproduce them in any magazine, journal, newspaper or the like. If you wish to reproduce any issue please contact us.

Information on joining the Practical Halacha mail list may be found here.

The original hard copy and softcopy of this publication was produced on computer equipment purchased with a grant made possible by the Belfer family.

İMelbourn Kollel Menachem, June 2000

Melbourne Kollel Menachem
92 Hotham Street, East St Kilda, Vic., 3183 Australia

Havienu L'Shalom Home Page

Havienu L'Shalom is pleased to host these Practical Halacha Web pages.

If you would like to support our efforts with a tax deductible donation, please send e-mail to:

İPage Layout and Design Havienu L'Shalom, June 2000